Copyright Thomas M. Plonski 1987-2012
All rights reserved
Previous Page How to buy Home Page


by Tom Plonski All the highly successful teachers I have known spent most of their classroom time as alert classroom monitors. I believe that excellence in classroom monitoring skills marks the difference between an effective teacher and an ineffective teacher. When the student is off task he is not learning. When the teacher is not alert to students going off task, the teacher loses effectiveness. The first clue to a student's leaving a task is given by the student's eyes. Where is the student looking? The student will almost always turn his eyes toward the mental focus of his attention. The classroom monitor must ask himself, "Is this where the student would be looking if the student is on task?" The same thing can be said about the classroom monitor. The first clue the students see that the monitor is no longer monitoring is in the monitor's eyes. The classroom monitor must become aware of his own eyes. The classroom monitor must ask himself, "Is this where I should be looking if I am on task as a classroom monitor?" If you are a teacher giving a lecture, watch the eyes of the students. Are they really listening to you? If no one is listening then why go on lecturing?
The prime objective of the classroom monitor is to SILENTLY encourage the student to stay on task.
               With this prime objective in mind let's consider some
          tools and procedures that the classroom monitor can use.


               The monitor's mere presence in the room can become
          a very strong psychological influence on student behavior.
          But this influence on student behavior depends on the
          student's perception of the monitor's expectations and
          on the student's evaluation of the monitor's behavior.
          If the student perceives the monitor to have low
          expectations, then student production will also be low.
               The monitor's expectations are reflected in his
          behavior.  Action speaks louder than words.  If the
          monitor tells the students that he has high expectations
          but his behavior contradicts his words, then the students
          will believe the behavior.  The students will soon
          realize that "You say it but you don't mean it."  Some
          students have a habit of testing adults to see if the
          adult still really means what he says.  The monitor must
          become aware that his own behavior betrays his own true
          expectations.  The strongest ways for the monitor to
          transmit his expectations to the students are non-verbal.


               The monitor must model the behavior he expects from
          his students.  Never underestimate the impact of body
          language.  If there is a consistent conflict between the
          spoken message and the body language, the audience will
          eventually disregard the spoken message and believe the
          body language.

               In math class, most of the student's time will be
          spent in silent alertness.  Therefore, the monitor must
          be a consistent model of silent alertness.  If we expect
          the student's to stay on task, then the teacher and the
          monitor must stay on task. In math class, the students
          are exhibiting their degree of silent alertness while
          being seated but the teacher and the monitor will need
          to exhibit silent alertness by their readiness to move
          around the room.  Unless it is obvious that every
          student is silently and strongly focused on his task,
          the teacher and the monitor must be standing and
          moving silently about the room as needed.

          3.  FOCUS, LOOK, WALK, TALK

               When we suspect a student has stopped working on
          his task our first tool is to focus our full attention
          on the student by looking at him until he gets back to
          work.  Many times this is all that is necessary.
          Sometimes a non-verbal gesture is necessary (raising
          the eyebrows, tilting the head, raising the head,
          nodding, pointing etc.)
               Usually when an off-task student realizes that the teacher
          or monitor is focused on him, the student will return to work.
          If a silent, calm stare from the monitor does not cause the student
          to return to work, then we must quietly, calmly start to walk
          closer to the student.  How close we get to the student depends
          on whether or not he returns to work on his task.

               If the monitor has been standing near a student for a while
          but the student has not returned to task, it might become
          necessary to engage the student in brief, very quiet,
          private conversation.  We must not allow this to become
          a distraction to the students who are working.  If the quiet,
          private conversation appears to lengthen and become a
          distraction, the monitor should consider asking the student to
          step away from the group to continue the conversation in depth.

               Whenever the teacher or monitor finds himself breaking
          classroom silence in order to scold a student, this is an
          admission that non-verbal messages regarding expectations
          did not work.  This could be because non-verbal messages
          were not skillfully used or because of student obstinacy.

Click here to learn how to buy the Plonski Math Method

Click here to return to the previous page